From the Feuilletons


Die Zeit, 23.03.2005

Recent months have seen films on Hitler ("The Downfall" by Bernd Eichinger), Goebbels ("The Goebbels Experiment" by Lutz Hachmeister), and now Nazi chief architect and armaments minister Albert Speer ("The Devil's Architect" by Heinrich Breloer). In addition, there has been an abundance of books, television documentaries and articles on the subject. Jens Jessen is fed up with it all, and doubts that there is a real desire for historical knowledge behind the hype. "The last eyewitnesses are dying, the last people we could consult or who could contradict what we say. Now people are being created from archive material, historical speculation and filmmakers' fantasies, in order to answer our questions about how it all happened, and how people felt at the time. No. That is not the entire truth. The truth is: We want to know how we would have felt if we had taken part in it all. The Germans have been taken by a tremendous empathy for the perpetrators, which could reflect either pangs of conscience or a way of avoiding guilty feelings. (...) In fact it is not our honest interest in the reality of Nazism that is escalating, but something entirely different. The real escalation is in our narcissistic preoccupation with ourselves. We are not struggling with the Third Reich."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23.03.2005

Finally! Today the city of Utrecht has made peace with philosopher Rene Descartes, resolving differences that had lasted 363 years. Christoph Lüthy reports on the ceremony: "The declaration was read out publicly in Latin, and stated: 'After consultating professors from all faculties, we, Willem Hendrik Gispen, current Rector of this university, and Annie Brower-Korff, current Mayor of the glorious city of Utrecht, solemnly revoke the 'Judgement on the new philosophy' adopted by the university senate on 17 March 1642 (old style), and approved by the city council on 24 March of the same year.' The reconciliation ends with apologies to Descartes, and the wish that his 'philosophy may be taught in this university for all eternity'." In 1639 Descartes was accused by Utrecht theology professor Gisbertus Voetius as being as "Catholic imposter" who was attempting to give philosophy precedence over theology. In 1642 Descartes' philosophy was condemned by the university as atheistic.

Parisian sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar observes among immigrants in France and Germany a double encapsulation in cultural and religious terms, because the connection to the majority of society has failed. "The structures which formerly secured social cohesion – in France this means political awareness and affiliation to a political party – have started to dissolve. Other spaces for social orientation are shut off to immigrants from the start, for example regional identities - English, Scottish, Welsh – which native Britons can invoke."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.03.2005

Siggi Weidemann reports on a tragic story from the Netherlands during the Nazi era. It tells of poet and Dutch resistance fighter Jan RT Campert, famous for his "Lid der 18 Toten" (Song of the 18 dead). Now it has emerged that he was an informer: "Ninety-year-old former resistance fighter Gerrit Kleinveld told Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad that Campert did not die from starvation in the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, but that he was murdered by his fellow prisoners. The oldest prisoner of the block, communist Jan van Bork, had given the order. The reason for the execution was apparently that Campert had betrayed his fellow prisoners in exchange for more food and an easier workload."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23.03.2005

Kerstin Holm introduces the stars of the Russian Tank Museum in Kubinka. "Two Russian visitors ask at the front desk where they can find the "Faschy", the German tanks. And the guide, Boris Michailovitch, a friendly elderly man who seems to feel an almost fatherly love for his metal charges, leads the strangers to the German pavilion with a celebratory air as if this was where the most noble veterans of the turf were housed. But Michailovitch dismisses the tanks of the Anglo-Saxon allies in the hall opposite with a sweeping hand gesture. The British tanks like the fat 'Mathilda' or the Churchill crocodile were like warships, easy to hit and with an overly high centre of gravity." The German tanks which were all captured in the war are more advanced. "The Russians, who are used to seeing the same T34 models standing around in military bases throughout the country, are impressed by the variety of models created by such a small country. Moreover the engineering of the German war horses is more sophisticated and they are more ferocious in design. The Russian tanks with their purely functional fluid forms look almost silly in comparison." - let's talk european